A/N: Just a little something I was determined to write. Enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING
She has had this nightmare before. It has been knocking at the door to her sleeping mind nearly every night since she ran away from her old life.
In it, she is sweating and fearful. Tears are running down her cheeks in an endless stream. Her hands are tied behind her back and she is bound to a chair, forced to watch as the friends she left behind are tortured and killed.
She knows she can save them. If only she could break out of her restraints, she would be able to save them. But the ropes digging into her flesh are doused in vervain. Whenever she moves—whenever she thrashes, attempting to free herself—her skin catches fire.
She calls out to them. Begs for their forgiveness. She cries her broken apologies, but they do not hear her. Their mouths are parted in muted screams, and she must watch as the life that once filled their veins spills from their torn bodies.
She has had this nightmare before, only this time it is worse. No longer are their howls of agony silent. They pierce Caroline's ears. They drill into her brain. Closing her eyes does nothing. She flails in her confines. Ignoring the searing pain that bathes her, she continues to writhe. She must help. She must get to them.
Bonnie's eyes are on her. She is next. As Stefan's begs for mercy begin to die, Bonnie knows she is to follow in his footsteps.
"I'm so sorry!" Caroline says. Ash settles on her tongue. Bonnie does not hear her. "I'm sorry! Please, I'm sorry!"
She repeats these words countless times. Even as Bonnie burns, even as Caroline's flesh falls from her bones, she continues to abuse her throat.
As her mother is reached—how cruel to have her in this horrific scenario; she is already dead, she does not need to suffer any more—Caroline hears somebody calling her name. At first, she believes it to be her mother, but her mother's lips do not move except to howl in pain. Again and again, somebody whispers her name into her ear. She can feel a hand stroke her cheek. Confused, she whips her head around, but sees no one.
The pressure against her face grows fiercer. Caroline jerks against her restraints to find that she feels no effects of the vervain.
It is as if she is being lifted from the nightmare by a string. Her body rises. Sheets fall from her unclothed skin. She is bathed in darkness. But there is a presence beside her. A calming presence that calms the harsh breaths she takes.
"You're okay," the voice in her ear says. "It was only a dream."
Caroline's hair sticks to her face in clumps. She sinks into Klaus's arms and he begins sweeping at her forehead, moving the wet strands behind her ears.
Each time this nightmare takes ahold of her, Klaus is there to shake it away. He soothes her tortured mind, guilt-ridden for having run off without warning, leaving nothing but a note and the engagement ring that had begun to weigh down her entire body.
In the mornings, after he has successfully lulled her, she is able to laugh at how, in the dark, they switch places. With the absence of light, Caroline transforms into a desperate creature plagued by her own insecurities. Klaus, the most fearsome being in all of history, becomes her comforter. Her rock.
But she finds no humour in it now.
Klaus's fingertips graze her arms. He kisses her damp hair. "Was it the same?" he asks.
She does not want to answer, but they have never been able to lie to each other. "I could hear them," she says, shivering in remembrance. "All of them, they were so terrified and in so much pain. All because of me."
She has known since the nightmares began that they are born from her fear of something happening in Mystic Falls as she is off travelling the world. Klaus says waiting for danger will do her no good, but he of all people should know how they must sleep with one eye open. There are targets on all of their backs.
What if something were to go wrong in Mystic Falls? She is so very far away. Grief would swallow her if she were unable to reach her friends in time because of the distance between them.
"You aren't going back," Klaus murmurs.
"You can't tell me what to do," is Caroline's immediate response.
She is stiff. Klaus clutches her hand, tracing circles against her palm until she relaxes once more.
"I'm not trying to tell you what to do," he says by way of apology. "But you can't live in fear, Caroline. You're used to saving people. It's a part of who you are. But they don't need you. They're capable of defending themselves."
He always says the most remarkable things. She has thought for months that she needs to start putting his quotes on t-shirts. Earn some money off of his thousand-year-old wisdom.
"You're right," she sighs, kissing his stubbled cheek and settling beneath the covers.
She does not need light to know he is smiling. He will never tire of hearing her utter those words. She gives them to him when he deserves them, and he holds them over her in the days that follow.
They rest that night. Eventually a dreamless sleep captures Caroline. She dozes well into the following morning. When she awakens, she finds herself alone. Klaus has already vacated the bed. She rises and wanders to the window of their lavish home in Devon, England. Rolling hills, kissed by sunlight, meet her eyes. She manages to laugh at how desperately she wished to return to Virginia in the night. She would not trade this view.
She descends the staircase dressed for a day out and finds Klaus on the phone. His back is to her, but she can tell his body is tense. His shoulders are practically at his ears. Even with her sensitive hearing, she is having a difficult time picking up on what he is saying.
Her trainer squeaks on the marble flooring as she reaches the end of the staircase. Klaus immediately straightens, his thumb ending the call so quickly he cracks the screen to his phone. She waits for him to say something. For too long she has been the girl plying for information. It does her good to be patient.
He says the name with malice and envy. There is no reason Caroline should suspect something is wrong.
"What's happened?" she asks, unable to hide the quiver in her voice.
Klaus rushes to her so fast her hair flies. He looks in her eyes, their usual hardness dissipating. "I phoned him. To check on him and the others."
He loves her. He may never say it. He may never be able to admit it to himself, but he does. It is all over his face.
Caroline encircles him in a gentle hug. She toys with the curls at the nape of his neck that are in need of trimming.
"Is everything okay?" she checks, her mouth against his shoulder. He only nods into her. "Then let's go."
"He still loves you." Klaus says this as she begins to separate herself from him. Their faces are almost touching. She must have such a questioning look in her eyes, because he immediately explains himself. "Stefan. He is still in love with you."
This is his schoolboy jealousy talking. Caroline understands, though he clearly doesn't. "No, Klaus. He doesn't," she insists. "Elena. It has always been Elena for him. There is nobody else."
Because his eyebrows are still pinched ferociously above his nose, because there is still so much pain in every line marring his old skin, because he is holding her so tightly, like he is afraid if he lets go she will fade away, Caroline dips her head and kisses him fully. She places her hands either side of his tired, handsome face and lays her lips on his until he calms.
Then, together, they exit the house and wander into the wilderness.